Wednesday night was a lesson in getting halfway there for the Quakers.
Despite recording hits in nearly every one of the 14 innings played against La Salle at home on Wednesday night’s doubleheader, Penn (9-7) couldn’t manage to bring most of those eager runners on base home. That inability to turn hits into runs ultimately meant that Penn also got halfway to a doubleheader sweep, winning the first game, 5-2, before falling, 5-3, to the Explorers (7-11) in the second.
From the beginning of the showdown in Penn Park, the Quakers’ defense emerged as a high point. According to Penn coach Leslie King, this was by design.
“We weren’t really happy with how we played defensively last Friday, so it’s something we’ve been talking about because we know that we’re capable of making plays,” she said. “Sometimes you get a little tight out there, but I thought they did a much better job tonight making plays.”
That toughness reached its peak in the final innings of the second game. Sophomore Katie Petroski had two highlight-film worthy grabs against the left-field fence, both of which supplied Penn with its third out to shut down multiple-run-scoring innings for La Salle.
Between making those daring grabs, Petroski breathed life into the Red and Blue offense in the bottom of the sixth inning. With two outs and the score at 3-1 in favor of the Explorers, the sophomore found a hole in La Salle’s right field for an RBI triple. Thanks to miscommunication between two Explorers, confusion ensued, enabling Sarah Cwiertnia to run home. The momentum would stop there though, as Vera Barnwell was thrown out at first after bouncing a ground ball right into the pitcher’s glove.
La Salle would score two more runs in the top of the seventh to bring the score up to 5-2. In the bottom of the seventh, junior Leah Allen singled to plate another run and bring Penn within two runs of the leader with two outs. But the Quakers’ comeback would stop there.
Although King was happy with how her team hung with its opponent through all seven innings, the game was over far before Allen would collect her Ivy League-leading 17th RBI of the season.
“I thought the turning point of the game was when we had the bases loaded and didn’t score,” said King. “I think we did a poor job really in both games of executing with runners in scoring position — we left a lot of runners on base.”
What’s most frustrating about ending an inning with three runners on base, as Penn did in the bottom of the fourth inning of the second game, is that the Quakers did just about everything right in that inning — except score.
“It’s really encouraging that we were consistently getting runners on,” senior pitcher Lauren Li said. “I think the missing piece is just scoring them, I think that we’ll pick that up and bring them in.”
The Quakers have two more doubleheaders, against Rider on Saturday and Lehigh next Wednesday, before the all-important Ivy season opens against Brown. In those games, King hopes her team can smooth out the kinks and get to a point of consistency on both offense and defense.
“So we’ll use that opportunity to kind of solidify things and make sure we’re in a good place going into next week,” said King. “We’re still trying to build up to [Ivy play] and get better and better every time we take to the field.”
Penn’s first chance to prove it can put all of the pieces together will come against a very beatable squad from Rider (2-16), which coincidentally will also be the team’s first away game since returning from its 10-game spring break swing through Florida.
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